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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Prayer — It Works!

The power of strategic intercession

By John T. Maempa
Nov. 10, 2013

In the mid-1960s, my wife’s brother Clifford spent a summer on a fishing boat in Alaska. It was a great opportunity to gain new experiences and earn some money to pursue his dream of being an airplane pilot one day.

On one particularly beautiful day, Clifford went out to sea alone and laid out his nets in hopes of a good catch. Moments after the arduous task, he began to feel a strange urge to move his boat. He tried to ignore the urge, reasoning that the weather conditions and all else appeared to be perfect; yet the urge to move only grew stronger.

Though it seemed to defy common sense, he pulled in the heavy nets and moved to another location. No sooner had he done so than a glacier near his previous location calved, sending a massive wall of ice into the sea. Had he remained in that spot, the waves created by the plunging ice would have swamped his boat.

Months later, Clifford learned his grandmother, 3,000 miles away in Idaho, had been stirred with a strong urgency to pray for him on that very day. Obediently, she went to prayer and remained in prayer until the burden lifted. When they compared the time, the events coincided precisely with the near catastrophe on the Alaskan waters. Prayer powerfully moves the hand of God to intervene in lives and circumstances!

Intercession, by definition, is standing in for someone else in prayer. It’s standing in the gap, often in the midst of spiritual warfare, for the salvation and welfare of people in need. Intercession may change the course of personal circumstances such as Clifford’s. Sometimes, however, God’s hand moves on a grand scale, changing the course of governments and nations. Strategic intercession can make a powerful difference.

E.M. Bounds, the great 19th-century writer on prayer, stated, “The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon earth. The great throes and mighty convulsions on earth are the result of these prayers. Earth is changed, revolutionized; angels move on more powerful, more rapid wings; and God’s policy is shaped as the prayers are more numerous, more efficient.”

A wonderful thing about prayer is that it’s an equal opportunity ministry anyone can share in, whether young or old, rich or poor, well-known or obscure, educated or unschooled. Anyone can have a part in moving God’s hand through prayer to bring down strongholds and advance the cause of the Kingdom. The power of prayer is astounding.

During World War II, as efforts were made to secure beachheads for troop invasions, naval gunships were positioned parallel to the shore many miles away. At the appointed time, the large cannons began their barrage, hurling round after round of explosive ordnance onto the beach. The shelling shattered concrete bunkers, pillboxes, and other fortifications. Death and destruction rained down upon the enemy. All this was done to “soften” the beachhead and make it possible for soldiers to move onto shore and take territory for the cause of freedom.

Of course, it was never easy for the troops who went ashore. There was still an enemy to be engaged, often in close combat. Yet, the soldiers’ task would have been immeasurably more dangerous without the preceding bombardment from the naval warships.

Intentional, strategic intercession can have a similar impact in the spiritual realm. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (NIV). He then instructs his readers to put on the full armor of God — the belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield, and the helmet — and to take up the sword of the Spirit.

Without breaking stride, Paul urges, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (v. 18). There is a deliberate cadence and urgency in Paul’s admonition to God’s people.

As we direct prayer toward the spiritual strongholds and hindrances in our world, God’s hand can move in powerful ways to bring them down and confuse the enemy. Then when boots are on the ground, soldiers of the Cross can move forward and take territory for the Kingdom and the glory of God.

Church planting efforts are greatly advanced when believers intercede. As prayers are directed toward city government, businesses, schools and other institutions, God’s hand moves to bring favor. Prayer stirs the hearts of people to respond to the church’s presence and message. Prayer leads people to assist financially or volunteer for posts of ministry and service in the church. Prayer opens doors in surprising ways as God’s hand moves.

Strategic, focused intercession also makes a difference in God’s work around the world. Prayer opens doors for the gospel in heavily resistant areas. Prayer unlocks resources needed to advance the work of missions. Prayer stirs the hearts of men and women to respond to God’s call to the harvest field.

On this International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, petitions for God’s protection against persecution of His people and His Church will make a difference in believers’ lives in ways we may never discover in this life. Government leaders’ hearts can be softened, prisoners can be set free, and permission can be granted to establish places of worship. Prayer works!

Can God intervene in our lives, in our communities, in our world without our prayers? Absolutely. God is sovereign. He can do anything He wishes whenever and however He wishes. Yet, in His sovereignty, He has chosen to work through human instrumentation, through people like you and me, to fulfill His purposes on earth.

Prayer initiates, lubricates, energizes, mobilizes, implements and empowers the outworking of God’s purposes on earth. The prospect before us is straightforward: If we want to see more of God’s intervention, we must commit to pray more.

Words from a simple chorus many of us learned as children convey the Law of Prayer:

“The blessings will come down as the prayers go up.

So let’s just praise the Lord!”

Pray — it works!

JOHN T. MAEMPA is director of the National Prayer Center for the Assemblies of God.


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